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OFF AND RUNNING: Sunday was day of rest in most every city around the world, but not in Cartagena. Amid the sway of the palm trees and the roll of the Caribbean, delegates to the sixth session of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG-6) spent their Sunday hard at work. They met in opening plenary to discuss organizational matters, then in Sub-Working Groups, Contact Groups and Drafting Groups that ran late into the evening. In Plenary, delegates were welcomed by Chair Veit Koester (Denmark), Colombian Minister of the Environment Juan Mayr, Hamdallah Zedan, acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and Sipi Jaakola (UNEP), who conveyed the best wishes of UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer for a successful meeting.
ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS: Chair Koester highlighted the decisions of the Extended Bureau Meeting, held from 21-22 October 1998, to pursue discussion of several articles as a cluster and to form a legal drafting group to facilitate the drafting of the protocol's text. He identified the key concepts to be resolved including, "products thereof"; contained use of LMOs; socio-economic considerations; precautionary principle; liability and redress; and trade with non-parties. He also reminded delegates that the meeting's objective was to reach consensus on the text of the biosafety protocol and said 30 articles, the Annexes and the Preamble remained to be negotiated. He outlined the elements of a mechanism, Friends of the Chair, to assist the process. In setting deadlines, he said SWG-I was to finish work on "commodities and LMOs destined for deliberate release into the environment" and "products thereof" and SWG-II on "socio-economic issues" and "precautionary principle" by Monday at 6:00 pm. All groups were to finish work by midnight Wednesday to enable identification of outstanding issues by Thursday and completion of work by Friday.
HIGH GEAR: Many intergovernmental negotiations spend many hours of discussion time outlining positions, only beginning serious discussion late in the meeting. With the clock ticking, BSWG-6 delegates are on the move, trying to keep pace with the host of Sub-Working Groups, Contact Groups, Sub-Contact Groups and informal discussions outlined on the jam-packed schedule board.

The Third World Network, the Forum on Environment and Development and the Edmonds Institute presented a workshop entitled "LMO Potatoes, Sick Rats and the Impacts on Biodiversity". The guest speaker was Dr Beatrix Tappeser from the Institute for Applied Ecology in Germany. She discussed the harmful effects of a LMO potato diet on laboratory rat's immune systems.
The hallway outside the main plenary hall, where delegates were discussing the contents of documents.

SWG-I: The Co-Chairs of the informal group on “products thereof” (Germany and Iran, shown here) circulated a paper containing options for dealing with “products thereof:” full inclusion, full exclusion and a Co-Chairs compromise proposal.

Evening reception

The CBD Secretariat threw a welcoming reception on the terrace outside the Centro de Convenciones. Delegates continued their discussions over a glass of wine and snacks.

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